In precision platformer Clown Meat, you have to cheer up a Godzilla-sized clown from Jupiter

I’ve done some elementary study of the planet Jupiter for various creative research projects/dead-ends. It’s probably a symptom of my failings as an astronomer, but I have to say that at no point have I noticed any gigantic, depressed clowns. In new platformer Clown Meat, one such gigantic, depressed clown has swum through Jupiter’s atmosphere, drifted to Earth and kicked off some kind of meatpunk apocalypse, saturating the surrounding countryside with circus-themed abominations.

You play a much, much smaller clown, born within and then cruelly ripped from a hill of festering clownflesh by a pair of large talking clown hands. What are you born into this dreadful world to do? Cheer the big clown up, the talking clown hands explain. How are you to do this? Well, it starts with a series of murderous platforming challenges featuring gaseous proto-clowns who can ghost through surfaces, hissing clown lampreys and horrible, off-white clown tumours that kill you on contact. There are also many spike pits and deadfalls, which seem downright wholesome in the context.

Cover image for YouTube videoClown Meat Reveal Trailer

Your goal in each level is to reach one of those motherly clown hands, with faster completion times resulting in happier clown faces on a score graph that resembles a funfair strength-testing machine. In between these vicious stabs of platforming, you’ll speak to and perhaps, entertain a range of monstrous side characters. “Bring a smile to the withered and wretched faces of humanity,” explains the Steam page. “Meet other bio-clowns, speak to creatures of whispering hands, converse with juggernauts of nasal tentacles, you never know who your audience might be.”

There’s a demo for Clown Meat on Itch and Steam. I had a play over the weekend, and while it sometimes just feels like Super Meat Boy with different art, I adore the absolute full-bore mankiness of the setting – the total commitment to a world made from and dedicated to the abject misery of clowns. The clown hand characters remind me a little of the Primordial Serpents from Dark Souls, and also of Nova’s goddess-moms in Anodyne 2: Return To Dust. The scenery, meanwhile, includes some off-colour “anti-Pollish” graffiti, which developer Talia bob Mair has described as both an instance of in-world racism and a cheeky nod to Polish fans of their previous games.

Bob Mair’s previous projects – all collaborations, all “for no one”, all pretty well-reviewed – are just as wonderfully icky. There’s Brutal Orchestra, which is a turn-based roguelike set in Hell and featuring a demon called Bosch. Heatstroke, meanwhile, is an endless desert road sim in which you juggle driving with transcribing – as in, literally retyping – a deranged short story. And then there’s Swallow The Sea, in which you are an egg wobbling around a diseased ocean, consuming other cellular creatures to increase your size and eventually, get born.

Here’s how Natalie Clayton (RPS in peace) characterised Swallow The Sea back in 2020. “Spindly eels lash at you from behind rocks, despondent urchins drift lazily into your passages. Vile worms snap at you, pulling at their own skin to pull at your membrane with their bare skull. But hey, they’ve all got cute names like “Ubb” and “Nooty”. It ain’t all bad under the sea.” Clown Meat is a similar mixture of macabre and buoyant. The world might look like the contents of a dumpster shared by a butcher and a fancy dress shop, but I feel strangely affectionate towards the awful mutant harlequin at the centre of it all. Don’t forget, the premise of this game is to cheer somebody up.

Clown Meat is due to release this year. “Explore 40+ highly replayable levels!” continues the Steam blurb. “From the crumbling remains of Seattle draped in carnival lights to the burning ocean of trash that Vancouver has become, and all of the horrible scalding deserts of industry and waste in-between. Explore places you never thought possible, and find a reason to laugh, even in the darkest corners of existence.” I’ll take it.

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